People in Interest of S.A.G.
2021 CO 38. No. 20SC314. Dependency and Neglect—Termination of Parental Rights—Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
June 1, 2021
At the end of a dependency and neglect case, a juvenile court terminated parents’ legal relationship with their son. A Court of Appeals division vacated the termination order, holding that the juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act’s (UCCJEA) temporary emergency and non-emergency jurisdiction provisions. Further, the division held that, to acquire non-emergency jurisdiction on remand, the juvenile court must ask an Arkansas court to decline jurisdiction.
In keeping with the plain language of the statute, the Supreme Court held that UCCJEA temporary emergency jurisdiction exists only to protect abandoned children or to prevent mistreatment or abuse in emergencies. The juvenile court did not have temporary emergency jurisdiction when it terminated parental rights here because S.A.G. was not then abandoned and no emergency then existed. Thus, the division properly vacated the termination judgment. However, the division erred by requiring the juvenile court to communicate with an Arkansas court without further analysis. Because it is possible but not certain that Arkansas had home-state jurisdiction over S.A.G. on the date of the termination order, the juvenile court should have conducted a full analysis of its non-emergency jurisdiction, including the requisite fact-finding. The results of that analysis will dictate whether the juvenile court must contact an Arkansas court on remand.
The judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case was remanded to the juvenile court for further proceedings.